Alternative Spring Break 2013 in Biloxi, MS was an amazing experience. I could not possibly put into words how thankful I am for all the hard work of our trip leaders, chaperones, everyone at Community Collaborations International, and every person we encountered in our different projects. Without all of these people, ASB would not have been possible and I am forever in their debt.
Alternative Spring Break had a profound effect on my life in that it was probably the furthest I have ever stepped out of my comfort zone. I never had the opportunity to travel to an area in need and perform different service projects. Therefore, most community service projects in which I have participated in the past were close to home. Being able to travel to a different area of the country and immersing yourself in their culture for a week has been an enriching experience. Each and every person we met in Mississippi was nothing but kind and welcoming. I was fascinated by their firsthand accounts of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, thoughts on the BP Oil Spill, and general outlooks on life.
One of the things I learned from this week is no matter how insignificant a task may seem to you, you really are making a big difference. Nothing taught me this lesson better than when we helping a man named Marty with his project to build back up barrier islands that are located just off the coast of Biloxi. On Wednesday, we first Marty at a shipyard where there was a mountain of oyster shells. Our task was to fill bags made of chicken wire with oyster shells and then stack them on wooden pallets. Honestly, it was hard work and I ended up being a little sore the next day. After we were done working that day, Marty gave us a brief presentation telling us about his project, but I still did not completely understand what he was doing and why. On Friday, we were taken out to the barrier island to get a better idea of what all of our hard work was going toward. I was able to see firsthand the effects of erosion on this island. I was then able to understand that we were bagging and stacking the oyster shells so they could be put in the ocean to form somewhat of an artificial reef that would help to build the island back up. After seeing the island, all that hard work suddenly had new meaning.
Something else that struck me about this past week was how passionate all of the people we met at our projects were. You could tell they were all dedicated to what they were doing and that they had an immense amount of knowledge and wisdom that they were more than willing to share with us. One case where this was apparent was when we met Martha, Kim, and Ed while working at gardens in Hiller Park and at the Katrina Sculpture Garden in Biloxi. These three people made a great team and I learned a lot from them. One thing Martha said that really stood out to me was, "If you are passionate enough about something, then there is someone out there willing to pay you to do it." I could not agree more with this statement, especially after seeing that Martha is basically living proof of it.
Overall, this week was an amazing experience in which I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned a lot. If given the chance to do it all over again, I would definitely participate in ASB for another week. In the future, I will look into different service opportunities in my area and I will, without a doubt, be doing Alternative Spring Break again next year!
Class of 2016